This week I conducted an e-mail interview with sports blogger Kevin Thomas. Thomas works for the Portland Press Herald in Maine blogging almost daily about the Red Sox and their Double-A minor league affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs. He has been writing for the Press Herald since 1994.
By Max O’Neil
Q: Where was your first job as a writer and how did you get it?
College newspaper as a freshman at the University of South Florida. Walked in, applied and was willing to cover anything. After one year, I was recruited for a part-time position with the St. Petersburg Times. Eventually moved up to a full-time position.
Q: What made you decide to become a writer?
It was something I was good at. Received positive feedback from teachers and classmates since grade school. My love of sports moved me to sports writing.
Q: What has been your best experience as a writer?
In general terms, best experiences are when a complicated feature or enterprise story comes together. My best experiences in terms of events have been the 2004 and 2007 World Series, plus the 1999 NCAA Hockey Championship, won by the University of Maine
Q: You currently operate two blogs for the Press Herald: Clearing the Bases and Holding Court. What advantages do you think online blogging has over print? In what ways could blogging improve?
There is no deadline or space limitations to blogging. You can break news with a blog or offer informed opinion (underline INFORMED; I don’t care for nonsensical “talk-radio” style dribble). There are times I use information I could not fit into a story and use it in a blog (and tease to the story).
If a blog is done well – providing information, as well as linking to stories (your own and others), it can create a trust between you and the reader.
The best ways blogs can improve is by being consistent. Blogs take time and I think some newspapers don’t give their reporters enough time to write them. I am the only sports writer at my paper to write a blog. It is time-consuming and takes a commitment.
Q: Have you covered any sports (or anything) besides baseball and basketball? Do you currently prefer one over the other? Why or why not?
I have covered nearly every sport at the high school, college and pro level. I love the emotion and talent displayed in college sports. I like baseball because I have always loved the game and there is always something new to learn about it.
I covered education for one year at the St. Petersburg Times. Valuable experience, very fulfilling. But I missed sports.
Q: We recently had a guest speaker who mentioned that whenever he thinks of a story idea he immediately writes it down, and he has pages of story ideas. What is the process like for you in coming up with story ideas? How does a story become more than just an idea?
I do a lot of driving and therefore I do a lot of my planning and thinking in the car. I am always formulating story ideas in my head.
Q: You’ve been writing for the Press Herald since 1994. Do you think Portland is your final stop, or could you eventually see yourself somewhere else?
I did not move here because of the job. I worked at a very good newspaper (the St. Petersburg Times), but did not want to raise my family in Florida. My wife is from New England so we looked for a mid-sized city, and Portland was just perfect.
I don’t see myself leaving Portland because it is a great place to raise a family, and the newspaper is pretty good, too.
Q: What would be your best piece of advice to any aspiring writer?
Write everyday. Read, read and read. Write more than blogs. Write longer pieces and learn how to self-edit them. Constantly work on your craft. I had the pleasure of getting to know Stephen King in Maine. People think that he is just a guy with a strange imagination, but he is a writer with a determined work ethic (I recommend his memoir).